From a previous Palm Sunday sermon …
The parade that begins on Palm Sunday eventually becomes the parade that leads to Golgotha … but the closer we get to the cross, the smaller the crowd gets.
Palm branches are pretty light; they’re easy to carry and they’re fun to wave around. But when the time comes for that other, heavier burden – will we take up our cross? Or do we have our hands full? Are we too busy holding on to our own power and our own security?
Holy Week is a clash of two kingdoms …and each of us must examine which kingdom – and which king – we serve. It’s not easy to do, because we will most likely find a bit of both Peter and Judas in our hearts. We may discover that we care more about our own power and security than we realized.
In the clash of these two kingdoms – where an innocent man ends up on a cross – we are faced with our own sinfulness. But in this Holy Week “showdown”, we also discover redemption and new life. Long live the king!
I have campaign signs for two great local candidates in my yard. I am both pleased and proud to support them.
These two candidates sought me out, told me something of the issues that they are passionate about and why they are running, and respected me enough to ask for my support.
Based on my interactions with them, I have the utmost confidence in their integrity.
This morning, however, I took the dogs out at about 7am and found signs for two additional candidates in my yard: signs for candidates who did not have permission to put them in my yard.
This really ticked me off.
Really! What kind of person doesn’t ask permission to put a sign up? What kind of candidate sneaks into your yard after you’ve gone to bed and before you wake up to use your yard for campaigning?
My first reaction (after removing the signs) was that I would like to inflict some retribution. I feel that there should be some punishment for their impertinence.
But after cooling off a bit, I realized something else: this sort of behavior does not convey the kind of qualities and characteristics I admire. Nor does it inspire me with any sort of confidence about the integrity of the candidate.
Sure, it’s possible that the people who actually put the signs in my yard weren’t the candidate themselves. Unfortunately for the candidate, their behavior reflects on the candidate, regardless.
Today, in response (and in protest) to this kind of behavior, I would like to say to the two candidates who snuck unauthorized signs in my yard last night: you lost my vote.
Tonight was the second week of our series on food ethics at FPC. Those who were gathered made up quite a good group: large enough to spark some interesting conversation and plenty of diverse opinions.
At some point, a lightbulb went on over my head and I thought: this topic is a landmine. It’s not the kind of issue that is so controversial that it comes with it’s own red warning light that flashes “DANGER” to pastors who would approach. But it is still very much an issue that can stir up controversy; it just does it subtly.
So, why bother with it? Why have the difficult conversation about food ethics? And what would I say to those in any congregation, anywhere in the country that might prefer NOT to be more aware of how their food choices affect people and animals and ecosystems and economies around the world?
As you might imagine, I’ve given this issue a fair bit of thought. For me, it comes down to one answer: because we are the people of God.
The God we serve has commanded his people throughout every age to tend to those in need: the widow, the orphan, the least of these. As the people of God, we do not have the option of ignoring the consequences of our actions, even actions that would be easy to take for granted (like our food choices).
When it comes to eating ethically, there is no easy answer.
No one way of eating (organic, vegetarian, etc.) will eliminate every ethical dilemma.(For more on this topic, watch to Michael Pollan’s brilliant lecture at Princeton University’s conference on Food, Ethics and the Environment available on iTunes.)
But because we are given the responsibility of stewardship of creation – and of care for one another – we are commanded to take our choices seriously: to eat with our eyes open and to be willing to bear the weight of the consequences of our actions.
It’s times like this when my front yard is very popular.
I live on a relatively busy corner, near some schools, and across the street from a polling place. With an election coming up in April, it’s been like a class reunion around here with all the “old friends” who have surfaced to see if there’s room in the yard for their sign.
In a small town – in my hometown, no less – owning this piece of property is dicey. In truth, many of those who have asked to put a sign in the yard really are acquaintances: someone I went to school with, someone I went to church with, the husband of a close friend, the boss of another friend.
It becomes a balancing act. Do I allow signs for anyone with whom I’m friendly? Or do my political leanings outweigh my friendly feelings?
Do you really need ask?
So, I’m thinking of instituting a questionnaire for local candidates who want to place a sign in my yard. You know, to help me make good decisions.
Here are some questions I’m thinking of using …Political party? What is the best decision made within the last year by the office/board for which you are running? What is the worst decision made within the last year by the office/board for which you are running? What changes would you hope to make if elected?
What do you think? Are there other or better questions I should be asking?
My mother spent her entire career in elementary education. She never sequestered herself in administration; she spent 35 years in the classroom.
Over the course a lifetime of family dinners, I was forced/privileged to hear stories both humorous and touching, to endure analysis of contract negotiations, and to absorb both the hopes and frustrations of one who was both unequivocally dedicated to the public education system and who truly appreciated the gifts and individuality of each student.
So the last several weeks of watching more than one state government attempt to solve their budget woes by eradicating the collective bargaining rights of teachers, police officers and firefighters has been difficult for me to endure.
In addition, I have been sickened at the ways in which certain media outlets have demonized these public servants, portraying them as selfish or greedy or self-serving.
My own second-row seat to collective bargaining between teachers’ unions and administrators saw as many discussions about things like class sizes as about salary.
I grew up understanding that the local teachers’ union negotiated on behalf of the teachers AND in the service of the best possible school system … not in an attempt to be self-serving, but in an attempt to do a service that they took very seriously.
And (for the record) having been a substitute teacher for a couple of years, I can say (without reservation) that I have never met an elementary teacher that was overpaid.
These were formative experiences, although I didn’t know quite how formative until recent events helped me to look more closely.
People learn all sorts of things from their mothers. It turns out that the influence of mine shaped my politics.